A First Look at Norwegian Breakaway

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    You've seen the renderings, but there's no substitute for seeing this stunning piece of Peter Max-designed artwork up-close and personal. It not only covers the hull with a huge image of the Statue of Liberty, but it continues all along the side of the ship with playful stars and motifs curling round portholes and doors.
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    This painting, entitled "Fire Island," is just one of many nods to the ship's new home of New York. The area at the aft is Spice H20, but maps of New York State and Long Island are there to remind you that this ship is firmly rooted -- or will be -- in the Big Apple.
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    It's the largest Aqua Park at sea, with five water slides including the fastest freefall rides at sea -- two waterslides that loop back on themselves, sending you into a 360-degree spin before depositing you out the other end -- in six seconds! The park was inaugurated by Paralympic gold medalist Ellie Simmonds with CEO Kevin Sheehan in Southampton.
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    Along with Fire Island, this is the other piece of New York-related artwork that greets you as you enter Spice H20. The only problem is, we’re pretty sure it wasn’t painted by a native New Yorker. (See if you can spot the glaring typo.)
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    Ocean Blue by Geoffrey Zakarian is the new addition to Breakaway, with a $35 cover charge per person. Appetizers include crispy calamari, grilled prawn panzanella and mussels. Mains included lightly roasted sea scallops, wild salmon in buttermilk, risotto of Jonah crab and black sea bass. It's worth noting it's small, just about 40 seats, and according to Norwegian CEO Kevin Sheehan "should be three times the price" -- so book early!
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    Geoffrey Zakarian's Ocean Blue is the only new restaurant outlet onboard Breakaway. The rest are all on Epic. This for-fee venue is snuggled between Wasabi and the Raw Bar and also features outdoor seating. The menu, not surprisingly, is mainly seafood with freshly-caught fish and shellfish as the main attractions.
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    Ocean Blue forms the centerpiece of Breakaway's outdoor-facing restaurants. It's an idea so obvious and simple it's a wonder no one's thought of it before. Running all along Deck 8, including La Cucina, Maltings, Cagneys, Wasabi, Moderno Churrascaria and Ocean Blue, it harkens back to the days of dressing up in your finest and promenading along a pier or a Boardwalk.
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    The ship received the traditional water-cannon salute as it departed Rotterdam, along the river towards the North Sea and Southampton. Thousands of people lined the banks of the river and along bridges to get a glimpse as it made its way out of the port.
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    The triple-height 678 Ocean Place features a huge chandelier as its centerpiece and backlit glass stairs connecting each level. Starting at Deck 6, it starts with Le Metro, a French-style brasserie, and Headliners Comedy Club (with dueling pianos). The casino is ranged around Deck 7, and on Deck 8 you'll find Geoffrey Zakarian's new restaurant Ocean Blue, The Raw Bar, Wasabi, Shakers and the Ice Bar. Deck 8 is also the Boardwalk, which most of these venues open onto.
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    Bliss Ultralounge, the nightclub onboard, has been relegated from a centerpiece attraction on Epic to almost an afterthought on Breakaway. Whereas on Epic you are led through stunning artwork and lighting into a vast interior complete with beds, this is a far more restrained and way smaller affair -- just a space with very loud music.
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    This is one of two outlets of New York-based Carlo's Cake Shop onboard, selling Lavazza coffee and a small selection of cakes and pastries in 678 Ocean Place on Deck 6.
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    The popular Fat Cats Jazz & Blues Club has been transposed in its entirety -- including Bluesman Slam Allen -- onto Breakaway. The key difference, as with many of the outlets on Deck 8, is that it spills out onto the Boardwalk.
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    The large bowling alleys that were a big feature of O' Sheehans have been sliced in half and the balls shrunk down and moved to an area at the back of the pub. Hence, their designation as "mini."
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    This is in the main Atrium, behind guest services, and it's one of many pieces of New York art that adorn the ship, reflecting its new home. There is also art by hull artist, Peter Max, and other NY-based artists all over the ship.
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    The party started at Spice H20 as the ship set sail from Rotterdam -- complete with SpongeBob, Patrick and Dora, as well as music and introductions by the Cruise Director of her entertainment staff.
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    The mini-suites features double-length sinks, as well as huge rain showers and four sets of adjustable nozzles.
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    This 6-foot-long "plank" is more of a metal bar that juts out over the edge of Deck 17, with nothing between you and the lifeboats, about 10 decks below. It's not over the water, but it is vertigo-inducing, even though you're in a harness the whole time.
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    The Haven is Breakaway's exclusive luxury "ship-within-a-ship" complex. This is the Vibe Bar, complete with cabanas, that has more of a Miami feel than New York.
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    The Spiegel Tent, which made its debut on Epic, has been rebooted with no dialogue at all. It's also been given a jungle theme makeover, complete with leopard-skin sofas, zebra-skin chairs and lots of animal sculptures. According to CEO Kevin Sheehan, the line's next ship, Getaway, will do away with the Spiegel Tent completely and introduce a brand new feature called the Illusionarium.
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    Savor, one of the three main dining rooms onboard, has the look and feel of a specialty restaurant, with banquette-style seating, lots of room dividers and two- and four-person tables. Dishes are different from traditional MDR fare; on offer, you'll find Vietnamese spring rolls, fried calamari and portobello mushrooms, among other appetizers. Mains include fish & chips and New York Strip Steak.
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    This Tom Ka Gai mussel dish with pieces of confit chicken in a delicious spicy broth is one of the highlights of the appetizers in Geoffrey Zakarian's new Ocean Blue restaurant onboard Norwegian Breakaway.
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    Norwegian CEO Kevin Sheehan (far left) and VP International Francis Riley (second from left) are seen here with Paralympic gold medalist Ellie Simmonds and former Olympic swimmer Chris Cook, who officially opened the Aqua Park on Norwegian Breakaway in Southampton. Fiona Jeffrey of Just a Drop, Norwegian's chosen charity, also attended.
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    The gelato shop is one of many outlets on the Boardwalk, Breakaway's outdoor dining and entertainment area on Deck 8. It's part of Carlo's New York Cake Shop, which is one of many New York-inspired features.
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    We spotted this typo on a map of New York and Long Island outside Spice H2O. We're not sure if CEO Kevin Sheehan made the amend or not, but by the time we returned the next day, it had already been painted over ....
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    The popular Spice H2O area on Deck 16 aft has a bar, a dance floor and lots of shallow water and waterfalls for small kids to splash around in.
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    The Vibe bar, at the front of the ship, is the exclusive, key-card-only outside spot for the lucky passengers staying in the Haven, the ship's "ship-within-a-ship" luxury complex.
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    La Cucina is one of 21 restaurants onboard Breakaway. This popular specialty venue sits on Deck 8, and, like the other outlets on this level, has outdoor seating on the Boardwalk.
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    First introduced on Norwegian Epic, Headliners Comedy Club, which also includes the dueling pianos, has made a welcome return on Breakaway. It forms one of the many entertainment venues on Deck 6, part of 678 Ocean Place.
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    This little fella greets you as you enter the Spiegel Tent. He's a taste of things to come: inside the popular dinner and show venue has been renamed Jungle Fantasy, and the decor reflects this.
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